Sautéeing okra over high heat with a few spices and aromatics brings out its essential grassy flavor, while leaving any trace of its notoriously slimy nature in the dust. This method blessedly and truly mitigates the "slime factor" that prolonged cooking or stewing can bring out, keeping the okra snappy and bright even as it becomes tender from the heat. It works equally well with small, young okra pods or larger okra pods cut into small pieces, so you can enjoy it all okra season long.
This simple recipe is ready in minutes. It's great for a crowd if you want to double it, just be sure to use a very large pan so the okra all has a chance to get lovely browned edges as it cooks (or cook it in batches to avoid crowding it).
- 1 pound okra
- 1 small onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 to 3 hot chiles
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or grapeseed oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- Sea salt
- Rinse and trim the okra (cut off and discard the stem ends, particularly on any larger pods). Cut any but the very smallest of pods into bite-size pieces. Truly tiny pods can be left whole, if you like. Set the okra aside.
- Trim off and discard the stem and root ends of the onion. Cut in half lengthwise; remove and discard the onion peel. Mince the onion and set aside.
- Peel and mince the garlic cloves. Set aside.
- Remove and discard the stems from the chiles. Cut the chiles in half lengthwise; remove and discard the seeds. Cut the chile halves crosswise as thinly as possible. Set aside.
- Heat a heavy pot over high heat. Add the oil and the cumin seeds. Cook, stirring, until the cumin seeds start to turn color, and become extra fragrant about 30 seconds. Add the onion, garlic, and chile slices. Stir to combine everything. The spices and aromatics should be sizzling the entire time.
- Add the okra. Cook, stirring frequently, until the okra is tender to the bite and brown on the edges, 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust the heat so the okra is sizzling, but the garlic and other aromatics don't char or burn.
- Transfer the okra to a serving platter.
- Sprinkle with sea salt to taste and spritz with lemon juice, if you like. Serve hot or warm.
While any leftovers are tasty, this isn't a great make-ahead dish; you can, however, do all the chopping a few hours ahead and store things, covered and chilled, until you're ready to quickly cook it closer to serving time.